Israel intensifies air strikes on Rafah ahead of ground assault


Israeli air strikes pummelled densely crowded Rafah on Saturday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his troops to “prepare to operate” in the southern border city that has become a last refuge for displaced Palestinians. Israeli strikes also targeted a “residential building” west of the Syrian capital early Saturday, a war monitor said, with state media reporting Syrian air defences responded to an Israeli “air attack”. Read our live blog for all the latest developments

People assess the damage caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 9, 2024, as battles continue between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement.
People assess the damage caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 9, 2024, as battles continue between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. © Mahmud Hams / AFP

Summary:

  • Witnesses reported new Israeli air strikes on Rafah early Saturday, after the Israeli military intensified air raids, with fears rising among Palestinians of a coming ground invasion.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the army to prepare to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza’s Rafah, his office said Friday. Netanyahu’s planned offensive on Rafah, where an estimated 1.3 million people have fled, has drawn condemnation from rights groups and Washington, while Palestinians have said they have nowhere left to retreat.
  • Israeli airstrikes hit several sites on the outskirts of Syria‘s capital, Damascus, the Syrian military said Saturday. The strikes came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official. It was not immediately clear if there were casualties

 

Yesterday’s key developments:

  • Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the army to prepare to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza’s Rafah, his office said Friday. Washington warned it would not support any ground assault on the city, and UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said civilians in Rafah in the Gaza Strip need to be protected, but the United Nations does not want to see any forced mass displacement. 
  • Nearly 10 percent of children under five in Gaza are acutely malnourished, a rate about 12 times higher than before the Israel-Hamas war, according to initial UN data published in a note from the UN humanitarian office OCHA relased on Friday.
  • About 30 rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon late Thursday into early Friday, following an Israeli drone strike that seriously wounded a commander of Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, the Israeli army said.              

  • The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says at least 27,947 people have been killed and 67,459 wounded in Israeli strikes on the enclave since October 7. Israeli officials say about 1,140 people were killed in the Hamas-led October 7 attacks in southern Israel. Militant fighters took some 250 hostages during the attack and 132 are still in Gaza, according to Israeli figures.



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